This time of year Santa is on the minds of little ones around the world. He’s also on the minds of many parents facing that tricky question, “Is Santa real?”
Who can resist the story of a jolly old man with a beard, driving a sleigh loaded with presents for boys and girls and pulled by flying reindeer?
It’s not true of course, but that doesn’t stop millions of us from passing on the story we learned as children to our own little ones. It’s a tradition that seems to never get old or fade away.
There comes a time however, when children begin to suspect that Santa isn’t real. How a parent handles the moment of truth can affect how a child will react.
Many kids begin to hear that Santa isn’t real from classmates or friends or even an older sibling. Some children may be devastated, and others may shrug it off and move on. You never quite know.
How do you know when it’s time to let children in on the big secret?
"There's really no one right time to tell kids that there's no Santa Claus," says Glen Elliott, Ph.D. Elliott is an associate professor and the Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. "The important thing is to take your cues from the child, and not try to prolong the fantasy for your own enjoyment when they may be ready to give it up."
Follow your child’s lead is a good tip. You know your child best, so consider his or her age and maturity before springing the truth on them. Kids typically begin having some doubts around 6-8 years old.
If your child is beginning to ask questions about Santa being real, it may be a way to confirm their suspicions that he’s not or they could simply want reassurance that Santa will arrive this Christmas.
For instance, your daughter might start getting suspicious about the three different Santas she sees during the course of a day of shopping. Or your son might ask questions about how Santa can get to every house in the world in one night, or how he gets into houses with no chimneys. All logical questions as a child learns how to develop a sequential order to things. Children who begin to ask a lot of logical questions about Santa Claus are probably ready to start hearing the truth about him.
Just as kids give you signals when they're ready to give up Santa, they also let you know when they're not. If a child is too young, they may not even comprehend what you are telling them. The younger the child, the more real Santa seems. Santa is Santa and he comes every Christmas – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
So, how do you make that transition between real Santa and no Santa? There’s several ways to approach the topic.
Help your child understand a more generous and loving side to Santa. The magic of Santa isn’t just about doling out material gifts, but also of spreading joy, kindness and love around the world. You can suggest to your child that we all can be Santas by helping others. We can all spread a little happiness – just like Santa does- by giving to others, even those we don’t know. The emphasis becomes doing something for someone else. There are many charities that depend on people to donate gifts for children in need. Plan a shopping date to buy toys or clothes for less fortunate children and let your child pick out what to buy. Let your child be a part of giving not just receiving.
Another approach is to talk about your own childhood and how you too believed there was a Santa. Tell your little one about how you felt when you learned that Santa wasn’t real and how it became ok once you understood. Also, there are many books available with excellent stories on the non-reality of Santa you can read with your child.
Some children are afraid that if there is no Santa, there’s no Christmas. Explain that is never the case. Christmas is much more than Santa and toys. It’s actually a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. For Christians and some other faiths, the story of the birth of Jesus reveals a much deeper meaning that revolves around family, sacrifice, love and giving.
The magic of Christmas doesn’t fade away once you tell your child there is no Santa. Just like every other passage in life, we learn to adjust and keep the beauty of the tradition while creating a new experience to take its place.
Santa may not be a real person, but he does have many lessons to teach us. The best story I’ve read about telling a child the story of Santa comes from writer, Martha Brokenbrough. She penned an article for the New York Times that encapsulates the heart of the Santa story. This is a good start to finishing the question, is Santa real?
The article addresses a question her daughter, Lucy, asked, “Are you Santa?”
Here is a segment of that story:
“Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.
It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.
Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.
With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.
So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.”
Story sources: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/when-santa-stops-being-real#1